Legal Showdown over Mining and Community Rights in EcuadorPublished by MAC on 2003-10-12
Legal Showdown over Mining and Community Rights in Ecuador
12th October 2003
DECOIN is asking your support in helping save one of the world's great biological jewels and set a legal precedent that would help communities and local government permanently protect their natural resources and communities from the blight that is industrial mining.
The case of Junín and Cotacachi County vs the Government and Mining Interests
The Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador, the highest court of the land dealing with constitutional issues, is about to make a decision that will either set a precedent in favor of community rights and the conservation of the environment, or "bend" the constitution to favor the ruling elites, transnational mining interests and extractive industries.
In May of this year, the Municipality of Cotacachi government, in representation of all township governments of the Intag area of Imbabura Province and affected communities, presented a Constitutional Injunction to annul the Golden 1 and Golden 2 mining concessions totaling 7,000 hectares, in the exceptionally biodiverse Toisan Range. The concession was auctioned under suspicious circumstances to a single individual in August of 2002. The auction was publicly opposed by all 8 township governments in Cotacachi County, local communities, all organizations working in the area, the entire County Council, and the Mayor, Auki Tituaña, a Kichwa Indian.
The lower court ruled in favor of the County and communities at the provincial level. The defendants, a very wealthy Ecuadorian and the Ministry of Energy and Mines are now appealing that decision. The injunction states that the sale of the mining concessions, and the consequences said sale will produce, violate fundamental constitutional rights, including prior consultation with communities, and the right to live in a contamination-free, ecologically balanced environment. It also states the sale interfered with the constitutional rights of local governments to apply local laws and carry out their own development policies. Specifically, in the case of Cotacachi County, mining activities of any kind violate the Countys Ecological Ordinance, which prohibits economic activities that are harmful to people and the environment, while promoting sustainable activities and local development.
The area in question is on the western slopes of the Western Andes and within two of the Earths 25 Biological Hotspots; the Tropical Andes and the Choco-Darien- Western Ecuadorian Hotspot. The area is populated by small farmers, but still is very rich in primary cloud forests, protecting dozens of pristine watersheds. The forests are also the home to many endangered species of mammals and birds. This is the same area where in the early 1990s Mitsubishi found a massive copper-molybdenum deposit, and where communities, backed by DECOIN, a local grass-roots NGO, with critical national and international support, rejected the mining project, and shut down the project in May of 1997 when they burned the Mitsubishi mining camp to the ground.
Because of its location, the Environmental Impact Statement, prepared by a prestigious Japanese organization, predicts social and ecological devastation, including:
- Relocation of 4 communities.
- Contamination of rivers and streams with lead, arsenic, copper, cadmium and chrome.
-"Massive deforestation" leading to local climatic change and desertification". This will impact the
livelihood of thousands of small farmers in the area, and ravage the regions unequal biological diversity.
- Impacts to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, one of the worlds most biodiverse protected areas.
- Impacts to not less than 28 species of mammals and birds, including: spectacled bears, jaguars, 2 species monkeys, mountain tapirs, and many birds, including the spectacular plate-billed mountain toucan (for a complete list of impacts and endangered species, please refer to www.decoin.org or contact Decoin).
- Archeological sites from the Imbaya culture are equally threatened
We also believe the mining project imperils the region's unique and inspiring turn towards sustainability and socially just development the county of Cotacachi has undertaken in recent years.
Please take a little bit of your time to help the communities and people of Intag and Cotacachi County stand up for sustainability and human rights, and contribute to the protection one of the worlds great biological jewels (see below for model letters).
Time is crucial. We believe the court in under unusually heavy pressure, and it is abnormally speeding up this case, leaving us little time to present all our proofs. Write letters and fax and e mail today (See attached sample letters for sample letter in Spanish).
Send Letters to the following authority (The fax is not automatically, so you have to ask for a tone: in Spanish: por favor necesito un tono de fax.
Señores Miembros de la Iera Sala
Tribunal Constitucional del Ecuador
Ave 12 de Octubre y Nicolás Jimenez 16-114
Fax: (0115932) 256 9861
Asunto: Caso Amparo Constitucional, Cantón Cotacachi
Me dirijo a Ud. para expresar mi profunda preocupación por la amenaza a las poblaciones y medio ambiente que representa el proyecto minero en la Cordillera del Toisán, ubicado en la Zona de Intag, Cantón Cotacachi.
Tengo conocimiento que el Municipio de Cotacachi, en representación de sus ocho Parroquias, y comunidades afectadas, ha presentado un Recurso de Amparo Constitucional con la finalidad de declarar la invalidez de las concesiones mineras Golden 1 y Golden 2, ubicadas en la Parroquia de García Moreno, provincia de Imbabura, por haber violado derechos constitucionales fundamentales garantizados en la Constitución de su hermoso país, Ecuador.
Una sentencia confirmando la decisión de la Corte de Imbabura, beneficiará a un amplio sector de la sociedad y en especial a los moradores de la Zona de Intag que dependen de un medio ambiente equilibrado y libre de contaminación para realizar sus tareas agrícolas y ganaderas, y también favorecerá la conservación de uno de los sitios más biodiversos de nuestro planeta para futuras generaciones.
Señor Juez, tengo fe que Ud. hará respetar la Constitución, aplicando las leyes que protegen a las comunidades y el medio ambiente.
De Ud., atentamente,